Newest Review: ... the case and the love triangle with Blanchard's beau, Kay Lake, played by Scarlett Johannson. There is a relatively high-profile supp... more
Poor adaptation of a James Ellroy novel.
The Black Dahlia (DVD)
Member Name: cerys82
The Black Dahlia (DVD)
Advantages: Beautifully shot
Disadvantages: Unengaging, pastichey
*This is a film only review*
'The Black Dahlia' is a 2006 film adaptation of the James Ellroy crime novel of the same name, and is directed by long established Hollywood director Brian Da Palma.
The 'Black Dahlia' of the title is aspiring actress Elizabeth 'Betty' Short, a real life actress who was found brutally murdered in 1947. 'Bucky' Bleichart, played by Josh Hartnett and Lee Blanchard, played by Aaron Eckhart are two of the lead homicide cops working on solving the murder. Their investigation leads them into the seedy underbelly of Hollywood as they uncover corruption at the deepest levels.
The somewhat fractuous relationship between the two of them is complicated further by the fact they are bare knuckled boxing rivals, Blanchard's obbession with solving the case and the love triangle with Blanchard's beau, Kay Lake, played by Scarlett Johannson.
There is a relatively high-profile supporting cast which includes Rose MacGowan, Hilary Swank, Fiona Shaw and Jemima Rooper.
I am just going to come out and say it - this is not a very good film. The murder itself is almost incidental as the main focus of the film is on Hartnett, Eckhart and Johannson's characters. The big problem here being, that the characters themselves are just not that interesting. Hartnett's performance is stilted and unconvincing, and its very difficult to care about Eckhart's character's breakdown or the effect it has on Johannson's character.
This film is shot in the film noir style, lots of sepia tones and incredible attention to detail when it comes to sets and costumes. In essence it looks stunning. However, this is all let down by the fact that the acting and the dialogue moves too far from an affectionate modern-made throwback to the film noir period, and instead is quite clunky, verging too much on pastiche to really take it very seriously. A lot of it is really rather hammy in actual fact - Josh Hartnett's voiceover is awful!
Ultimately, it follows in the footsteps of another James Ellroy adaptation, LA Confidential which was released in 1997 and is a near perfect example of this type of film, and therefore can only be compared unfavourably. Where LA Confidential managed to tie all the loose strands of the period together, the high level corruption, the poisonous influence and underbelly of Hollywood, and the complicated people trying to enforce the law amongst all this - this fails on virtually every level. In places, it is really rather lurid and shallow.
The use of attractive, young big name stars seems to be a cynical ploy to get a wider audience, but they just do not have the gravitas to carry off this work. Johannson's supposed 'femme fetale' is weak - she looks the part but it really is very difficult to get any real depth from her.
There is a lot that is meant to be going on, but I largely found it incredibly difficult to follow and I do not just think it is because I lost interest in it - I just think it was trying to cover too much ground to the point that important points are rather glossed over and it is difficult to decipher what the audience really should be taking an interest in.
Ultimately this is a disappointing film, that I really would not recommend - just rent a copy of LA Confidential if you want to see film noir done well!
Summary: Watch LA Confidential for how this should have been done